Marudam Farm School Marudam Farm School

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Marudam Farm School

Our endeavor at Marudam Farm School is to explore, through the process of education, if one can meet the needs of the individual child and also bring "learning" as close as possible to "living". We hope to create a learning space that allows for the flowering of a deep sense of joy, sensitivity, order and intelligence as well as an innate sense of well-being in a child.

In Marudam we see both teachers and students as learners sharing a learning space. As such, the teacher is seen more as a facilitator. Together, we take responsibility and care for the school environment.

Language

Our school is fully bilingual with Tamil and English given equal importance. Over the years, our parents have been an integral part of the school both in terms of the understanding they bring to our approach and the help they extend to conducting various activities in school.

Environment

We are committed to build deep and meaningful relationship with nature and the land. Towards this end, our students are involved in afforesting the Thiruvannamalai hill together with the Forest Way, in the organic farming on our land, and the whole school spends a day each week on Arunachala hill, which results in developing an intimate relationship with it. Besides that, all children are avid bird watchers, as well as insect, reptile and of course, mammal lovers.

Arts and crafts, physical education

Art and crafts, physical education, and theater are not mere activities in our school.They are all given equal importance along with academics. Especially in arts and crafts, learning happens organically; children join teachers and adults by doing rather than being taught formally. There is at least one big drama production every year, with full involvement of as many students, teachers and parents as it can take. It is performed in front of a big audience consisting of parents, neighbors and people close to the school.

Playing

We believe in co-operative learning that is non-competitive, inclusive and participative. We also hold that, as in life, the process and the experience of such learnings are by far more important than the end "goal".

We are inspired by the myriad learning experiences and joy which occurs and are facilitated through free play "zones". It is well documented that when children play, especially in mixed ages groups, they learn to adjust to each other's inherent abilities and differences, while following and constantly inventing new rules in the most natural way.

Besides the free spirit which characterizes our school, we try to allow free-play time as often as possible. Once a month we have a whole day without any time table or agenda, where the children are free to put their energies into whatever inspires them.

Inspiration

Our teachers come from different educational backgrounds, such as Krishnamurti, Steiner, Montessori etc and have brought with them the experience and knowledge of those different pedagogies. While we embrace and have much respect to all of these philosophies, we do not fully adhere any one of them. In that way our pedagogy is dynamic and versatile.

We welcome children into the kindergarten from the age of three and a half, where they stay until they are six years. While there is always a natural process of adjustment to the space and to being away from their families when first joining, it is remarkable to observe how quickly the children take to the place, how happy they are in it, and how fast they learn the rhythms, the routines, and the culture.

We look at the kindergarten as an important stage in children's development, where many foundations are being laid to be built upon in the years to come. We do not start any so called "formal education" while at the kindergarten. There is no reading and writing, no math, no exams of any sort. We believe that children learn through play, and that they should be allowed to play as much, and as intensely, as they have the propensity to do. To name but a few learnings which naturally happens through play there are social skills; language and communication; emotional development as well as monitoring; physical co-ordination; stamina; dexterity; innovative thinking; and problem solving.

Kindergarten children go for a walk every day, an activity which, beyond providing an opportunity to observe nature and the surroundings in their ever-changing states, offers a wealth of physical, emotional and mental learning situations. Other daily activities includes gardening, painting, sewing, clay modeling, arts and crafts, cooking and cleaning. The day is marked with songs, stories and puppet shows, and based to some degree on Steiner methods.

We have three learning groups for children between the ages of six to ten, though the groups often intermingle and co-operate with each other, to create mixed age environment:

  • For ages 6-7 we have a "Transition" group, which provides a gradual and gentle shift from Kindergarten into school.

  • ages 7-8 continue to build on foundations of reading, writing and numeracy

  • ages 8-10 are already well into project base learning.

The learning program builds on the child's academic skills and helps developing a deeper and wider understanding of themselves and the world around him. Through prepared material as well as open ended exploration, children are exposed to a wealth of experiences. Some of the subjects explored evolves into projects, integrating language, environmental studies, mathematics, art and crafts.

We have introduced Montessori methods and activity based learning for the children to acquire numerical, reading and writing skills. We found that while playing games, listening to stories, making puppet shows or at free-play in between class sessions, mixed age groups facilitate learning at the children's own pace and readiness. The younger children can move with the older children to learn newer concepts and the older children revisit these concepts and establish them further.

Mixed age group learning is also wonderful when it comes to cooperative learning and socializing. We make sure that groups and pairs will not be the same always, encourage children to interact with everyone, not only their close friends, so that they learn to work and co-operate with other children as well, expanding their comfort zone and tolerance of others. The same goes for their interactions with teachers - from two familiar care takers in kindergarten, the number and variety of teachers gradually increase as they move to the school.

In activity based learning, children learn their subjects through experiments, vocabulary games, creation of small structures, puzzle solving, illustrating stories, crafts, and other creative ways. Every week after their walk on the hill they have a session where they paint their nature observations from that day.

The curriculum has been framed to start with familiar concepts and slowly build into more complex and unfamiliar ones, moving from concrete to abstract. For example, in geography there would be a progression from drawing maps of the school to maps of the neighborhood, and later of Tiruvannamalai and reading of state and country maps.

They start project based learning in their own groups. Initially those would be theme based projects, such as "food", or "my body". This continues as the children grows older, with the addition of subject based projects. Subject based projects could range from running a shop for math studying, making stories and writing poems in languages or making experiment with water, air, natural habitats to developing food chains for social sciences. When reaching a higher level, children are encouraged to take on individualized projects and refer to resources on their own.

Every week the children meet for circle time, where issues are discussed with everyone and the students get an opportunity to share their experiences, conflicts with their peers or teachers, learning difficulties which may arise, and more.

We practice an on-going assessment of our children by means of a periodic slip tests .These tests are not marked, yet they enable us to understand the child's level and plan their learning program further.